Gauging the Google gaze

A digital visual analysis of images of a semi-peripheral town


  • Cornelia Brantner Karlstad University
  • Joan Ramon Rodriguez-Amat
  • Judith Stewart



place making, Google Images, place representation, image type analysis, visual culture


This study explores the visual representation of Great Yarmouth, a British coastal town caught between the urban and the rural, as seen through the quasi-monopolistic image search engine Google Images. The research examines levels of pluralistic or biased place representations to consider how rankings employed by Google Images algorithms represent Great Yarmouth’s identity. The study adopts a visual culture perspective that recognises the role of images in place making and combines digital methods with an image type analysis to investigate how online representations reflect and create the town’s identities. The data shows that Google Images’ preference for representing Yarmouth as a sunny seaside town indicates that the search engine prioritises marketable assets above its connections with its hinterland, its diversity of people, and the cultural activities it has to offer. This, the authors state, is a place far away from Tuan’s (1979) idea of a place that is given meaning and identity from the perspective of people. Instead, Google Images’ representations of Great Yarmouth are an example of a created form of place making as commodification. The article concludes that the inscribed bias and unbalanced search priority criteria employed by the search engine impact upon the diversity of the semi-peripheral town.




How to Cite

Brantner, C., Rodriguez-Amat, J. R. . and Stewart, J. (2024) “Gauging the Google gaze: A digital visual analysis of images of a semi-peripheral town”, Culture Unbound, 16(1), pp. 86–116. doi: 10.3384/cu.4303.



Place Making Beyond Cities